Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Article excerpt

Sir Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick since 2006, was knighted in the New Year Honours. This year he will oversee the 50th anniversary year of his institution before standing down. His knighthood follows an eventful year for Warwick. It was named University of the Year by one domestic league table but faced criticism over the suspension and reinstatement of English professor Thomas Docherty and staff anger over redundancy plans

Where and when were you born?

Bath in 1949. Real men smoked Woodbines, dentistry was terrifying, and the creamy Bath stone walls were blackened by coal smoke.

How has this shaped you?

My parents moved around a lot and I was more influenced by their frequent moves than any starting point. Maybe that's why I became a geographer.

What was your immediate reaction to being awarded a knighthood?

A deep sense of unreality. But my parents would have been very proud and that's a good feeling.

What is the significance of being given such an award?

It shows that Warwick's achievements are being noticed. The award is a wonderful way of helping to mark the university's 50th anniversary year and the numerous successes that its staff and students have achieved over the past few years.

It could be said that 2014 was a challenging year to be Warwick's vice-chancellor. What lessons did you learn from being at the helm?

All years are challenging for any vice-chancellor but, overall, 2014 was a very good year for Warwick: The Times and Sunday Times University of the Year; rises in nearly every league table, including Times Higher Education's World University Rankings; a Fields Medal; a good National Student Survey result; the groundwork for the National Automotive Innovation Centre laid; the new WMG Academy for Young Engineers opened; the business school setting up in the Shard, all topped off by a great research excellence framework outcome.

What should happen post election in terms of the funding of higher education?

We need a stable funding system that can deliver quality teaching and excellent research. We will not achieve this until England understands that higher education needs to be treated as a long-term investment in our common future, not just as a short-term cost.

Excluding fees, what is the most pressing higher education policy the main parties need to address?

It's actually further education which is too often treated, in our still sadly class-divided society, as a poor cousin of higher education. …

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